Policy Inequality

Why the International Criminal Court being under attack matters

The International Criminal Court is not an institution that crops up in casual conversation, even in conversations about politics. When it does come up, it is never pleasant. And why would it be? The task given to this institution is not an envious one.

The ICC investigates and charges individuals who have committed crimes against humanity.  The ICC was created by the Rome Statute a treaty brought forth by the United Nations but operates independently. The ICC is often seen as “the court of last resort.” Due to this, the court system usually sees the worst of what humanity has to offer, legally speaking.

So it’s safe to say this isn’t dinner party talk.

However, the International Criminal Court is one of the few institutions that can hold powerful people accountable. Without it, Charles Taylor the infamous president of Liberia and feared war criminal might still be living in exile. For many victims of human rights abuses, entities like the International Criminal Court remain the only place where they have a chance of getting justice.

The countries that are still recovering from civil wars, coups and foreign intervention in their political processes are in the nascent stages of rebuilding their homes. This means that the branches of government such as the legislative and judiciary may not be fully equipped in making sure the perpetrators of such violence are held accountable.

Additionally, it may be dangerous to hold such trials in the country of the accused in question. Lack of government infrastructure, fear for people’s safety and tenous peacebuilding all combine to drive home how important the ICC is. This is why the court being threatened by one of the most powerful countries in the world, is of grave consequence. Before John Bolton’s unceremonious departure from Trump’s cabinet, he gave a strongly worded speech threatening sanctions and labeled the ICC “illegitimate.”

Subsequently, the US imposed visa bans on all ICC personnel and staff involved in the investigation of US citizens.

This isn’t the first time the ICC has suffered from attempts to delegitimize it. Last year, President Duterte of the Philippines said that the country had given the notice to withdraw from the ICC. Burundi also withdrew in 2017, becoming the first country that has done so.

Naturally, the United States condemnation of the ICC has garnered the most attention. An important question is, what caused it? It may be due to current investigations into the conduct of American personnel in Afghanistan. Moreover, an investigation may be in the works regarding Palestine which would include the conduct of Israeli officials. The US and Israel have a long and mutually beneficial allyship that may be threatened by this.

It is important to note that the countries that have sought to attack or unnecessarily criticize the ICC in recent years have all been accused of grave crimes themselves.

President Duterte’s inhumane war on drugs has left thousands dead and made headlines around the world. Burundi’s security forces have carried out widespread human rights abuses such as abductions and beatings. The United States unnecessary and damaging war in Afghanistan and generally dangerous foreign policy continues to be felt.

All of these countries and their leaders have something to protect.

Namely, the political establishment and access to power. They have no interest in ensuring the ones that have been hurt the most by their policies and actions receive the protection they deserve. The ICC stands as an impartial organization that is not beholden to any government. For many, it is the last or only chance they have at having their voices heard.

There is something so moving about victims of war and human rights abuses coming face to face with their perpetrators in court to hold them accountable. They have the chance to explain what happened to them, their children and their country. The ICC gives these victims a platform for their voices to be heard and for justice to be served.

We cannot let those who would attempt to bully or intimidate the members of the court from doing their job in protecting human rights laws. Without the ICC countless more crimes will continue to go unchecked, and then what kind of world will we live in? There so much hate and pain in the world, we cannot stand down.

USA The World

2020 Democrats are boycotting this year’s AIPAC conference, but it’s just an act

Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke, Pete Buttigieg, Jay Inslee, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Julian Castro have decided not to attend the 2019 American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference after the progressive advocacy group,, partnered with the activism startup, Mpower Change,  urged candidates to boycott the event. John Delaney, another 2020 runner, is also not attending but only due to scheduling conflicts.

AIPAC is a pro-Israel lobbying group and one of the most important players in promoting US-Israel relations. The organization provides bipartisan support for political campaigns and candidates and has received support from both parties as seen in its conferences (like in 2016 when both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump attended the event). Top Democrats like Nancy Pelosi will be in attendance, along with Republican politicians and Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

News of Democrats pulling out of this conference comes not too long after freshman lawmaker, Ilhan Omar, came under intense fire from both parties for her comments regarding AIPAC’s influence on American politics and her support for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement. Top Democrats and Republicans called out Omar’s strings of tweets as being “anti-Semitic” in nature, perpetuating a narrative that inaccurately conflates the Israel-Palestine conflict as one of religious discourse rather than settler-colonialism and human rights violations against an indigenous people.

Warren, Sanders, and Harris have offered their support for Omar during the ordeal, defending her right to start conversations about the extent of the power pro-Israel lobbying groups like AIPAC have in influencing the US’s political and economic support to Israel.

O’Rourke has also recently come out to criticize Netanyahu on “openly siding with racists.”

But before we praise the prospective 2020 Democrats on their seemingly progressive stances, let’s take a moment to consider that the move to avoid AIPAC is a one devoid of any actual solidarity with Palestine.

Remember that Kamala Harris has spoken at AIPAC’s conferences in the recent past. Or that O’Rourke has offered criticisms of Netanyahu, but continues to describe himself as a “proud advocate of Israel.” And, when Omar commented that Israel’s failure to recognize other religions didn’t uphold the statutes of a democracy, Pete Buttigieg called it inaccurate despite he himself stating that Israel couldn’t be a democracy and also a solely Jewish state not too long ago.

Just a few days ago, House Democrats began to push legislation to condemn the global BDS movement, a campaign that looks to use various forms of boycott (mainly economic means) against Israel until it meets its obligations under international law.

Let’s break down exactly why this proposed legislation makes no sense.

To start off, there’s a significant violation of our First Amendment’s right to organize. Generally, BDS seeks to achieve the following goals: Hold Israel accountable for their illegally occupied territories and settlements, ensure equality for Arab-Palestinian citizens, return displaced Palestinian refugees to their homes, denounce state-sanctioned violence against Palestinians.

With all that in mind, it becomes clear that moves like refusing to attend an AIPAC conference are fraught with hypocrisy and performative solidarity.

Many of the Democrats boycotting the conference have expressed varying shades of criticism for the current administration in Israel, but continue to support it as an integral foreign ally. All of this takes place while they vehemently denounce movements like BDS, which are fighting for the rights of the Palestinian people.

This “boycott” will definitely continue to widen the growing rift between Democrats and Republicans when it comes to an overt, unwavering right-wing support of AIPAC.

As long as Democrats continue validating Israel’s statehood and crippling the movements fighting for the civil rights of Palestinians, they’ll remain a massive roadblock in the path to Palestinian liberation.

The World Inequality

Best of The Tempest 2018: News and Social Justice

What a year 2018 was. This time last year, we were still reeling from all that had happened to us, wondering how anything could ever get better. But we entered 2018 with renewed vigor. Members of our very own Tempest team marched on behalf of women in the US and in Rome, and we campaigned for LGBTQ rights when we launched our Spirit Day campaign. We fought for immigrant rights while throwing the spotlight on environmental injustice, too. Moreover, we started holding each other (and our politicians) accountable to the greater good. And through it all, we remained steadfast in our vision for justice and equality for all.

The News and Social Justice sections also made a concerted effort to cover more international topics this year. To do this, we took a hard look at politics around the world; we analyzed the way WOC and minorities were disproportionately affected by the agendas of the wealthy and elite. We told the raw stories of immigrants and those living in the most dangerous parts of the world to be a woman. The conversations we had about mental health, sexual assault, and police brutality were also difficult, but necessary. Nonetheless, women and the LGBTQ community saw some serious gains in politics and around the world, giving us hope for a brighter 2019.

I’m so proud of the work that our incredible team of staff, fellows and contributing writers have put out this year. The News and Social Justice verticals have certainly benefitted from their passion.  Not to mention, the wonderful Dominique Stewart joined as Assistant Social Justice Editor this year and breathed fresh, new life to the vertical.

Dominique and I will continue to work hard to push the sections forward in the coming year, and we’re so excited to see what it holds. Here’s to more glass-ceiling smashing, determination, incredible activism in 2019.

Now, without further ado, here are the top picks of 2018 from the News and Social Justice sections at The Tempest.

1. Living in Portland in the age of Trump

Living in Portland in the age of Trump

Amidst an era of political uncertainty, Laura Muth gives us an in-depth look at what it looks like to live in the US right now. “To live in Portland right now is to engage in an endurance test of your capacity for cognitive dissonance,” writes Muth. Beautifully written, Muth portrays the strength and resistance of the queer and black communities in a way that ignites hope for the future of activism.

2. Meet the undocumented, detained women of an Arizona detention facility

Exclusive: Meet the undocumented, detained women of an Arizona detention facility

Shahrazad Encinias goes straight into the heart of an Arizona detention facility to interview undocumented women who’ve been there for almost two years. They’re being held without a clear picture of when they’ll be released: “I’m locked up. It’s the same as being in Guatemala,” says Rosa*. These women tell Encinias of the fear, discrimination, and violence they face on a daily basis. Harrowing and powerful, this piece by Encinias is a must-read.

3. This is what reality is really like for one woman in Pakistan’s red light district

Lahore-based Momina Naveed ventures into Pakistan’s red-light district to find out what daily life is like. She interviews Munni*, a single mother doing sex work as a form of survival. Munni works so that her daughter doesn’t have to: “I will go to great lengths to make sure my daughter doesn’t have to suffer at the hands of the same fate as mine,” she says. Naveed’s reporting is somber, earnest, and fresh. This piece might make you cry, but you will come away with a new perspective on sex work that we’re sure you’ve never read before.

4. What we lose when we take the European Union for granted

This is what we lose when we take the European Union for granted

In this piece, Katie Kaestner-Frenchman confronts the European Union in its entirety. With all its imperfections, flaws, and snafus, the Union is a “project in progress,” but an essential part of maintaining order in the world. Kaestner-Frenchman speaks frankly about what we lose when we begin to lose sight of what the European Union is supposed to stand for.

5. Judges don’t believe sexual assault survivors. So what happens next?

Judges don’t believe sexual assault survivors. So what happens next?

Of course, not everything we faced this year was rosy. Biased legislative procedures around the world make it incredibly difficult for women to report and obtain justice for sexual assault. The stigma attached to women who’ve experienced sexual assault and harassment compounds the issue. What happens when judges don’t believe survivors? Meg Leach gives us a powerful call to action: Vote. Them. Out.

6. Black lives will always matter more than your game, your flag, and your song

Black lives will always matter more than your game, your flag, and your song

Assistant Editor for Social Justice Dominique Stewart provides readers with a frank perspective on anthem-kneeling. A practice used by some athletes as a peaceful expression of political frustration, anthem-kneeling has nonetheless been sharply criticized by President Trump and American voters alike. Stewart sees this criticism as fundamentally misplaced – find out why in this honest and raw piece.

7. Studies show that Indian parents think that mental health issues are shameful. What next?

Studies show that Indian parents think that mental health issues are shameful. What next?

What does mental health in South Asian communities look like? It’s often difficult to say since there’s so much stigma surrounding its discussion. Mariyam Raza Haider combines her personal experiences with an expert interview to sketch out how Indian communities can foster more empathy towards one another. “A public health crisis like this demands a pivotal shift in the way our parents think and understand mental health,” writes Haider. While this piece focuses on the Indian community, this piece is nonetheless relatable to all.

  8. Art-activists Renee Lopez and Ameya Okamoto are breathing new life into social justice activism 

Art-activists Renee Lopez and Ameya Okamoto are breathing new life into social justice activism

Grace Wong explores the practice of “artivism” (art activism) in this fresh and inspiring piece. To do this, Wong interviews artivists Ameya Okamoto and Renee Lopez — women of color working in photography and digital media — to better understand how art communicates and sheds light on their life experiences. Through their art, Okamoto, and Lopez fight for inclusion, ally with Black Lives Matter, and push for greater intersectionality. Featuring original work graciously provided by the artists, this article underscores the power of art as a social justice medium.

9. After the midterms, can we dub 2018 the new “Year of the woman”? 

After the midterms, can we dub 2018 the new “Year of the woman”?

When we said that we entered 2018 with renewed vigor earlier, we meant it. Women of color, members of the LGBTQ community, and millennials made unprecedented gains in US politics this year, and we believe the government (and lives) will be better for it. These strides have made Sara Marshall feel empowered and ready to hit the ground running in 2019. The only question is – will you join us?  

Happy New Year! Our appetite for all things news and social justice at The Tempest will never slow down. Here’s to another year of determination, vigor, and activism!


*names were changed to protect the identity of individuals interviewed

USA Gender Politics The World Inequality

Rashida Tlaib, the midterms, and the pursuit of politicians who look like us

For those not living in Michigan, Rashida Tlaib’s congressional win seemingly came out of nowhere. And yet, Muslims and Palestinian Americans everywhere didn’t hesitate to celebrate following Tlaib’s victories.  Pleasantly surprised and inspired, I decided to do my own research on Tlaib.

Rashida Tlaib ran on a platform of being a non-traditional candidate who saw herself as more of an activist than a politician; a sentiment that helped propel her to victory in Michigan’s 13th Congressional District as they looked to replace former Representative John Conyers Jr. Before resigning last year amid sexual harassment allegations, Conyers’ resume included co-founding the Congressional Black Caucus and being the first lawmaker to propose the making of a national Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. As a result, those vying for his seat needed a history of standing by minority communities.

Rashida Tlaib had it.

From protesting President Trump during a speech at the Detroit Economic Club in 2016 to trespassing on corporate land to test for pollution, Tlaib was truly an activist. When speaking to the New York Times, Tlaib said “much of her strength came from being Palestinian” and never shying away from her identity.

Even on the night of her primary win, Tlaib’s mother draped her in a Palestinian flag.

This strong identification with her Palestinian-American background alongside her history of activism helped her win MI-13. Yet, no matter how proud Tlaib was of her identity, she advocated for policies that hurt the very group of Palestinian Americans she championed.

During the race, we saw a candidate endorsed by lobby group J Street, an organization that required a candidate to oppose the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction (BDS) movement, and support the continued military aid to Israel. This deeply concerned me and many other Palestinian-Americans who believed that the BDS movement and the use of aid as a bargaining tool was vital in encouraging Israel to end their human rights violations. Both of which Tlaib didn’t support.

Today, the situation is different. A week after having won the primary election, Tlaib finally spoke out on the issue and reversed her decision by no longer supporting aid to Israel until it complied with international law. Moreover, she’d declared that she was willing to stand behind the BDS movement. With that,  J Street removed its endorsement and the worries of her followers subsided.

It was then, and only then, did it seem that Tlaib might truly stand to do her part in providing a Palestinian-American voice in Congress.

Though, what is troubling to me is how so many supporters beyond MI-13 were satisfied with the fact that a Palestinian-American Muslim woman had even won the primary despite not doing anything to guarantee that this victory was truly one beneficial for Palestinian and Muslim Americans alike. Thousands from beyond MI-13 were ready to cheer her on without a second thought, even if her stance was more harmful to Palestinians compared to those of other members in Congress with no connection to Palestine.

This election cycle, therefore, taught me something especially valuable as more minorities run for office: we can’t quietly assume that those who look like us will always support us. More importantly, we can’t tell ourselves that the fact they’ve made it that far as a minority in America is enough. This notion of “existence is resistance” cannot allow us to accept politicians who enact harmful policies. It is an injustice to ourselves.

Election Day has come and gone, and Rashida Tlaib is no longer the Democratic candidate for MI-13. She’s the representative. Yes, we can celebrate her. However, it’s also our responsibility to continue diligently watching her and her policies.

After all, Tlaib only spoke out and lost J Street’s endorsement after the public showed their outrage. So we must let any politician seeking to represent us know that we are watching and listening because, at the end of the day, the election of any politician is dependent on our satisfaction.

USA Politics The World

The “Muslim ban” will forever leave a stain on the Supreme Court’s legacy

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court of the United States decided on the case of Trump v. Hawaii, which challenged the third iteration of Trump’s controversial travel ban – also known as the “Muslim ban.” It was called out by civil rights campaigners for targeting predominantly-Muslim countries, including Iran, Syria, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia. In fact, of the eight countries Trump targeted for the ban, five of them were Muslim-majority countries.

The argument against the travel ban was two-pronged.

First, that Trump had no executive authority to issue the order to put the ban into place; and two, that Trump’s anti-Muslim statements meant that the banning citizens from Muslim countries had less to do with “protecting national security” as the government claimed, and was instead primarily focused on preventing Muslim immigration into the US.

The Court determined that the ban fell within Trump’s executive authority and that his anti-Muslim statements and actions had no bearing on the case.

“The [order] is expressly premised on legitimate purposes: preventing entry of nationals who cannot be adequately vetted and inducing other nations to improve their practices…The text says nothing about religion,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion, which was cosigned by the Court’s more conservative justices.

[bctt tweet=”The Court claims the travel ban has nothing to do with religion, but we can see right past that.” username=”wearethetempest”]

In a scathing dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, slammed the majority’s argument. She cites several instances during President Trump’s election campaign where he made anti-Muslim statements and referenced anti-Muslim videos. Trump’s biases are so severe, she argued, that they shouldn’t be overlooked in determining his true motives for the ban.

“The majority here completely sets aside the President’s charged statements against Muslims as irrelevant. That holding erodes the fundamental principles of religious tolerance that the court elsewhere has so emphatically protected, and it tells members of minority religions in our country ‘that they are outsiders, not full members of our political community,'” Sotomayor charged.

Although it’s too soon to completely tell what the Court’s ruling will mean in the long-term, Trump’s travel ban has technically been in effect since December, which means there is some evidence of its effect on immigration patterns.

Although the travel ban has different restrictions for each country on the list, all citizens who are still eligible to apply for visas to come to the USA from their home countries will be required to undergo a more extended and thorough vetting process. Unsurprisingly, the number of visas that have actually been issued to applicants have been significantly reduced since the introduction of the ban. Only two of the roughly 16,500 visa candidates who fit the travel ban’s vetting requirements were admitted in the month following the ban, and the number of asylum seekers and refugees from the countries affected by the ban has been admitted in 2018.

[bctt tweet=”Unsurprisingly, the number of visas that have actually been issued to applicants have been significantly reduced since the introduction of the ban.” username=”wearethetempest”]

The lack of ability to travel into the United States is more than likely going to have an impact on the capability of students from affected countries to come to the US to study, even if they’ve already received a student visa in the past. Some universities have even recommended that their students from impacted areas seriously consider if they need to go home, especially if the students are from Syria. No visas for any purpose will be granted to Syrians, and so students who are in the States from Syria would definitely be denied a return to the US if they went back home for any purpose.

[bctt tweet=”Some universities have even recommended that their students from impacted areas seriously consider if they need to go home” username=”wearethetempest”]

Women’s advocacy groups in the Middle East have also noted that the travel ban will impact the ability of organizations to meet with human rights organizations based in the United States. For example, the Global Fund for Women noted several instances of women’s groups having difficulties gaining the visas that the needed to attend meetings for the United Nations, which means that the GFW has been unable to best advocate for the women it serves.

Even though the ban has only been in place for six months, it has already damaged the ability of students, refugees and women’s groups to access aid they need from the United States. The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the ban has solidified this dangerous policy.

World News Immigration Politics The World

The dangerous double standard hiding behind American NGOs helping Syrians

NuDay Syria is a non-profit humanitarian organization dedicated to providing relief to displaced Syrian people. 

Too often, organizations with a faith-based mandate say so specifically within their mission statements – sometimes, even in the organization name. For example – organizations like Samaritan’s Purse and Compassion International are pretty straightforward about their religious affiliation.

However, when it comes to organizations that don’t center around a faith-based mandate – but still have a Muslim founder or board members – there’s an entirely new issue. Regardless of the mandate, there’s an inherent assumption by the general public and various sectors that we are somehow a faith-based organization – even when our mandate and mission clearly state something else.

I can’t remember whether NuDay has ever been called a Muslim NGO – formally or otherwise. It’s a notion that begs being investigated now, more than ever, in our current humanitarian climate.

I find myself asking the question of how an NGO based in the West – founded and/or staffed by American Muslims – goes about being defined. Should it work in a conflict zone where the majority identifies as Muslim? Who makes the final call, especially when it comes to folks within government, researchers, the public, and donors? Are we in need of redefining or creating an entirely new relief sector?

In the case of NuDay, we focus on inculcating empowerment and aid with dignity to the mothers and children inside Syria. Even without mention of faith, because I am visibly Muslim, the assumption is laid upon the organization – a double standard that begs discussion.

When I first formed NuDay in 2013, I did so carefully and conscientiously.

Furthermore, it’s time to start examining why the assumption is made that civilians in Muslim majority countries want anything other than what we want here in the West: peace, freedom, safe shelter, education, and food.

The Syrian humanitarian crisis is a result of the nation’s citizens standing up for their basic rights of freedom and democracy. Somehow, though, that doesn’t matter to those on the outside. They’ve deemed the relief initiatives of NGOs like NuDay to be solely faith-based. That, in turn, leads to the destructive assumption that the impetus behind the NGO’s work isn’t because there’s an actual humanitarian crisis taking place.  Couple that with the fact that our work primarily takes place in a Muslim-majority nation, and the stigma becomes almost impossible to shake off.

I could go ahead and flipped this assumption on its head: should I, as a Muslim, assume that other NGOs in the West always have some nefarious, secret faith-based mission? That they are, in fact, out to proselytize the Muslims they’re meant to serve – even if the organization name isn’t religious?

It’s past time to continue pretending that our fear of others does not exist.

When I first formed NuDay in 2013, I did so carefully and conscientiously. I recognized that despite good intentions, careful evaluations, strict documentation and distribution requirements, our material support and program development would always be under a different, more strenuous kind of scrutiny.

And we have been.

Day after day, there remains little to no talk around why there remains a raging conflict in Syria, no discussion around how Syrians are resisting daily, if not hourly, the onslaught of violence from both extremists and dictators.

Instead, there remains an almost petulant, disgraceful focus on labeling and devaluing the NGOs working day and night – risking everything we have – to ensure that Syrian civilians receive support and relief. Regardless of our work, we are identified as merely Muslim-focused NGOs, which comes with the assumption that we lack consciousness of where our aid is headed or who is benefiting.

To sum it up: it’s assumed that we share different goals from NGOs without Muslim founders.

It’s more than just on the level of organizations – this double standard is personal. As a Syrian, it was recently brought to my attention that my name is on several lists within Syria – despite my having never lived there – preventing my ever entering the country under the current government.

My crime? The years of work providing aid and relief to Syrians of all backgrounds.

As an American, my organization – and others focused on serving Syrians – is treated with suspicion within the United States. With no rationale, our work – given its geographic location – is associated with extremists – harming our impact and efforts.

It’s past time to continue pretending that our fear of others does not exist. Such a detrimental attitude holds back constructive efforts to bring this nation together to support purposeful humanitarian relief efforts within Muslim-majority conflict zones.

It’s a fear that can only be eradicated with frank education, outreach, and conversations – as well as engagement on a community level – that supports diverse aid efforts led by Americans of all faith backgrounds working together to help those affected by a major crisis – even if that crisis is taking place within a Muslim-majority country.

Ultimately, fear holds our world’s future back – no matter where we live. To reach peace, we must break down irrational feelings of distrust and fear – it is only then that we can begin to heal.

Check out The Tempest’s ongoing coverage of the Syrian refugee crisis


It’s time to look policy right in the face, and The Tempest is doing exactly that

At the close of 2016, many of us looked back on the year with a mixture of incredulity and sadness. We felt the deep reverberations of a changing political global landscape, riding the shockwaves through events like Brexit, an attempted Turkish coup, and the American election campaign. For many, politics took a dark and sudden turn the night Donald Trump was elected.

Donald Trump’s rise to power and ultimate capture of the White House was jolting for many. The rhetoric he used to incite support was divisive, destructive, and crass — but the sad truth is that he was merely capitalizing on the sentiments of his support base. He’s all of our childhood bullies personified: the ones who picked on us for our names, sexualities, clothes, lunches, appearances. Our bullies tried to make us feel small, alien.

[bctt tweet=”The Tempest is launching a new Policy vertical to kick off the new political era.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Donald Trump’s victory is an affirmation that those bullies don’t merely exist on the playground. And as of today, he was sworn in as 45th President of the United States of America.

That’s not something we’re going to take lightly.

We’re not here to participate in internet slacktivism — we’re here to assert our political presence. Which is why The Tempest is launching a new Policy vertical to kick off the dawn of a new political era.

We’re here to help people like you decipher laws and policies in ways that are easily digestible for everyone. In times like these, the most powerful thing we can do is equip ourselves with knowledge.

However, keeping up with politics requires time, energy, and (more often than not) an advanced dictionary/thesaurus. Truth is, many of us become discouraged with the seemingly daunting and clunky language of politics. Bills can be up to hundreds of pages long and full of legal jargon that’s difficult to break down. It’s all-too-easy to disengage from the endless bills that flow through the congressional labyrinth.

[bctt tweet=”We’re not here to participate in internet slacktivism .” username=”wearethetempest”]

This section is going disrupt that flow, take out the haphazard fluff and get straight to what matters. We’ll walk you through some of the hottest bills, what they aim to do, and whether or not they’ll disproportionately affect you.

Given that this is such a crucial time for politics, it’s extremely important that we understand the policies which govern us. Practicing active citizenship is the best favor we can do for ourselves, regardless of whoever’s in office.

And we’re here to shake things up.


Senior News & Society Editor Asma Elgamal launches Policy channel to face the new political era

2016 was a tough year. In looking at the global political landscape, 2016 presented us with events like Brexit and the Trump administration, propelling hate groups into mainstream platforms and frankly terrifying the hell out of some of us.

[bctt tweet=”In times like these, the most powerful thing we can do is equip ourselves with knowledge.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Social activism hit a new high, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat – all became tools to resist and to make our voices heard. But even that sometimes, isn’t enough. As horrific as it is, a lot of the awful things that have been happening are completely legal. It’s like Hydra has infiltrated the highest levels and we are playing a very tricky game of dismantling policies while pretending that evil isn’t currently reigning over us.

“In times like these, the most powerful thing we can do is equip ourselves with knowledge,” Elgamal noted.

Like most things governmental, policies are shrouded in technical language, used to make things complex and drawn out. Some policies and legislation are incredibly long and honestly, that kind of information is not appealing to read. Although it’s super important to know what laws govern us, who really has the time to go through all these new documents to ascertain what is going on?

It’s hard to speak out against something that we don’t really understand.

So to help us deal with the aftermath, Asma Elgamal, our Senior News & Society Editor at The Tempest decided to approach things in a different way, launching the Policy channel at The Tempest.

Elgamal said, “The sole purpose of this vertical is to target and help decipher laws and policies so that everyone knows exactly what is going on. The aim of this is so that it is easier to understand which policies affect you and what they set out to do. In turn, preparing us for doing whatever is necessary to combat these policies.” Read more about The Tempest’s Policy vertical here.

Pop Culture

Don’t Play Yourself: Miley Cyrus and Bon Iver Cry Out For Attention

Welcome to another edition of Don’t Play Yourself, my weekly gathering of the highly visible and highly embarrassing, laying out their flaws and failures for analysis and reaction GIFs.  Every Friday I’ll collect the week’s players and decide how badly they played themselves this time.

This week I oblige Miley Cyrus’ and Bon Iver’s cries for attention, Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson fails (even more) at foreign policy, and Nikki from Penn State gets dragged to and fro on Twitter.

Miley Cyrus

During filming earlier, you said to a contestant that not everyone can be Mariah Carey.

I’ve never really been a fan, because it’s so much about Mariah Carey. That’s part of her shtick; I can see through that. That’s part of what makes her a gay icon; like, it’s about Mimi! It’s about what she’s wearing, and it’s about her. What I make isn’t about me. It’s about sharing my story; it’s about someone being connected to what I’m saying.

I thought we were done with Miley Cyrus after she finally stopped “twerking” but then The Voice went and resurrected her. No one asked you to do that, The Voice! Now that she’s back in the limelight, she made her resurgence with an interview in Elle in which she tried to say…something about Mariah Carey. I’m confused about what it is. She doesn’t like Mariah Carey because Mariah Carey makes her music about her, I think, but what does that mean? Why is Miley sharing her story different from Mariah sharing hers? I’m very confused. I’m sure this somehow comes down to Mariah being a diva, and Miley being so down to earth while she “twerks” (what chapter of your story was that in, Destiny Hope?).

Did Miley Cyrus play herself? Yes and no. She got what she wanted, which was clearly attention (see, Miley, I’m giving it to you), but if you ask Mariah about her

mariah carey

Bon Iver

“Hopefully, people will understand that I will come and play for you, I will get to you, eventually, in your city, but when I get there hopefully we will play something more special, we won’t just play some gig, we’ll have thought about it. We won’t just be ‘Hello Cleveland-ing!’ through our lives.” This isn’t, he stresses, about ego, nor is it an exercise in rock star worthiness. Rather, it’s about wanting to halt the idiocracy. “You can never be self-righteous, but it’s okay to be a little righteous,” he says. “You have to believe in something. Like, I’d prefer Beyoncé didn’t do a Pepsi tour. Do not take two million dollars from Pepsi and be a role model for young girls. Do not do that. That stuff does anger me. And I feel like I am not afraid to talk about that stuff.”

We need people to speak out, he suggests, or otherwise we’ll find a blustering dunderhead in the White House and an idiocracy in full sail. “It is the reversal of mental aptitude,” he says. “Let’s turn it around.”

Not gonna lie, I thought Bon Iver was the dude who beat Beyoncé out for a Grammy that one time, but that’s not even him. That was Beck. I don’t really know who Beck is either (sorry, Beck), but if you’re not even Beck, what makes you think you can come for Queen Bey? But anyway, what are they drinking in white America that makes Bon Iver and Miley Cyrus think they can just say whatever they want about their betters?

Bon Iver has clearly been so busy having lunch dates with Lena Dunham and bell hooks that he’s so massively misinformed about Beyoncé. At this point it’s just a waste of time to pretend Beyoncé is just a mindless automaton with no cultural importance other than her ability to sing and dance. This is the Lemonade era, man. That shit doesn’t fly anymore, and if Bon Iver is still subscribing to that wrongness about Beyoncé being just vapid pop star (who clearly sucks because she accepts money for her work), he’s living under a rock.

And also, I just saw Bey in concert two weeks ago, and it was fantastic and yes, very special. 

Did Bon Iver play himself? Beyoncé said it herself: “When you diss me, you diss yourself.”

beyonce gif

Gary Johnson

I bet you didn’t think Gary Johnson, Libertarian presidential candidate and former governor of New Mexico, would be embarrassing himself this soon after that “What is Aleppo?” mess. But joke’s on us because he proved his foreign policy incompetence further by being unable to name a single foreign leader. (He couldn’t even come up with Justin Trudeau? Everyone knows Disney prince Justin Trudeau!) If you can’t name anyone either, that’s okay. I mean you should definitely work on that, but since you’re not running for president there’s still time before you end up on this list.

Gary, however, is not so lucky. Look, he’s not alone. We’ve got a flaming hot Cheeto and a lady who thinks WiFi is dangerous to our development running for president. It’s a bad election year, okay? But when you flunked that last foreign policy quiz, Gary, why didn’t you brush up on it?

At this rate, I should be running for president.

This would have been less stupid if Johnson hadn’t tried to spin this idiocy into world leaders simply not being up to his standards (to be fair, he was asked to name a foreign leader he respects). That may have worked if he hadn’t already whittled his foolery down to an “Aleppo moment” like his woeful incompetence is fleeting and won’t play any role in his already unlikely presidency.

rolling eyes gif to gary johnson

Did Gary Johnson play himself? I say yes, because he willfully exposed himself to these questions knowing he didn’t know any of the damn answers, but it’s 2016 and people like this sort of stupid apparently. I don’t know. #HensleyforPresident

Nikki at Penn State

Oh my god, this is so college.

Lucky me, I didn’t have any bad roommates (shoutout to my super sweet roommate freshman year whom I probably annoyed). I did have an annoying suite mate sophomore year who left her alarm on when she left for the weekend (every weekend) but locked her door so it just went on all day because the RA’s refused to come turn it off so I could actually sleep), but otherwise it was cool. But I had plenty of drama, including that one time a dude I worked with called me a bitch in a group chat with other work people (for no reason!) and I had to post screenshots of that and put him on blast. Long story short, I understand Jessica (we’re petty kin) and why she posted these tweets for her roommate to find.

Why should either of you actually confront each other with your issues when you can do it like this instead? Twitter is so unpredictable it makes it fun. It can be a void, an echo chamber, or a packed theater, and you just never know what you’re gonna get. Jessica got the packed theater and the word of mouth promotion after the show, and the elusive Nikki appears only in torn printer paper and a few texts.

I do feel a little bad for Nikki. Though no one on my end of the Twitter timeline knows who she is, everyone at Penn State will know her and her (soon-to-be-ex?) roommate for these silly tweets and the tantrums and floor drama that ensued. That being said, this is absolutely hysterical. Wild college roommate stories are the best stories.

reaction gif to nikki

Did Nikki play herself? Without a doubt. You got caught tweeting about your roommate (why are you mad at the girl for having whooping cough?) and got mad. As a professor at the school of Act Out in Public, Get Called Out in Public, I can’t help you. But I must thank you, Nikki, for amusing me so thoroughly.